5 + 1 QUES­TIONS FOR SU­MITA DAWRA

India Today - - SNAPSHOTS -

It was the in­sights she gained while posted at the back­ward and Nax­al­in­fested dis­trict of Karim­na­gar that led Su­mita Dawra to write Poor But Spir­ited In Karim­na­gar. A 1991batch Andhra Pradesh cadre IAS of­fi­cer, Dawra now heads the eco­nomic wing at the Em­bassy of In­dia at Bei­jing. She tells Supriya Sharma about what she learnt on the job.

1. What made you pick Karim­na­gar as the sub­ject of your book? ?

I was posted as col­lec­tor and dis­trict mag­is­trate of Karim­na­gar dis­trict for over three years. It was my most chal­leng­ing as­sign­ment. The dis­trict was poor, back­ward and a hot­bed of Nax­al­ism. But I learnt a lot from the peo­ple of Karim­na­gar while im­ple­ment­ing de­vel­op­ment schemes there. I saw how ca­pac­ity build­ing of com­mu­ni­ties helped achieve re­sults quickly. Drop- outs re­turned to school, tenth class pass per­cent­age shot up from 66 to 89 per cent; there were pos­i­tive re­sults in ground wa­ter recharge, even cot­ton farm­ers changed their crop­ping pat­tern to maize. It was all pos­si­ble be­cause of the peo­ple of Karim­na­gar, who taught me what could be achieved within the sys­tem, even while giv­ing me lessons on what was wrong with it.

2. Could you share some in­sights you gained on the job?

As I learnt on the job, I re­alised it was more im­por­tant to in­volve peo­ple in work­ing to­wards goals that im­proved their lives, and em­power lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties. Given the present frame­work of gov­er­nance, I feel that peo­ple can be em­pow­ered most ef­fec­tively by shar­ing in­for­ma­tion with them and help­ing to make them aware of how to im­prove the lives of their fam­i­lies.

3. What have been the re­wards of your pro­fes­sion?

My job gives me a tremen­dous sense of ful­fil­ment, an op- por­tu­nity to ex­cel, au­ton­omy to plan my work and achieve set ob­jec­tives. In the dis­tricts, it was a chal­lenge to one’s cre­ativ­ity to strate­gise ways to mo­ti­vate com­mu­ni­ties, in­spire one’s own team of of­fi­cers, mo­ti­vate the vast pop­u­la­tion of govern­ment func­tionar­ies, and keep pub­lic rep­re­sen­ta­tives well in­formed to achieve tar­gets.

4. What would you ad­vise some­one who is start­ing out as a bu­reau­crat?

Look at the dif­fer­ence your work can make to the peo­ple and plan your work by think­ing back­wards from the goals you wish to achieve. Im­ple­ment pro­grammes to achieve tar­gets that will make life bet­ter for the poor.

5. What were the chal­lenges you faced fre­quently dur­ing your time as a col­lec­tor posted in Karim­na­gar?

I had to be care­ful while mov­ing around in Karim­na­gar, as it was over­run by Nax­alites. Due to reg­u­lar in­ci­dents of vi­o­lence, there were many schools and pri­mary health cen­tres where govern­ment staff did not at­tend work on reg­u­lar ba­sis. Im­ple­ment­ing strate­gies to bring ev­ery­one back to work and mo­ti­vat­ing them to de­liver ser­vices was one of my big­gest chal­lenges at the time.

6. What pre­vents ef­fi­cient im­ple­men­ta­tion of po­lices?

Each one of us has to be ac­count­able to the sys­tem and do our duty. We can­not blame the sys­tem when we our­selves may not be con­tribut­ing sin­cerely to our job, no mat­ter what our po­si­tion.

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